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Virtual visiting before you go Publishing: A new book tells you how to use the Internet to learn about your destination and plan your trip.

A new book on using the Internet for travel amounts to a short course on the subject, and it is a model of how to publish something that isn't out-of-date before the ink is dry.

"No book about the Internet that simply lists sites is relevant for more than a few months," writes Michael Shapiro, the author of "NetTravel: How Travelers Use the Internet" (Songline Studios and O'Reilly & Associates, $24.95). And the first chapter, "Destination Anywhere," alone is worth the price. Here you learn how to assemble your own guidebook by using both general and travel-oriented search directories, booking sites and online guidebooks.

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Shapiro suggests this series of steps:

Start with a search directory like Yahoo, Excite or Altavista, go on to newsgroups ("giant electronic bulletin boards"), perhaps proceed to such specialized directories as the Travel Channel and Culturefinder, then look for tourism offices and official advisories. At the end, you can book online yourself or turn to a travel agent, either in person or on the telephone or Net.

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There are easy-to-read chapters on transportation, lodging and restaurants, bargains, business, specialized and adventure travel, newsgroups and mailing lists, computing during a trip, and even one for travel agents. Though there are plenty of specific sites listed, most of the information will still be helpful even if a particular site disappears or changes radically.

There are anecdotes from travelers throughout. One went from immobile free-lance, in a suburban home office, to hitting the road on a bike with a portable computer. A self-described "real rookie" on the Net planned her honeymoon on the Web.

Three appendixes list useful Web sites, offer basic Internet training and give guides to the major online services, Compuserve, America Online and the Microsoft Network. Happily, Shapiro remembers that there is more to the Internet than the World Wide Web, and suggests helpful ways to use the broader network. He also realizes that several million people connect through one of those major services rather than through an Internet-only provider. (A CD-ROM that accompanies the book contains Windows and Macintosh software for joining America Online.)

Pub Date: 5/18/97


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